The U.S. Department of Justice is taking Google to court for Google’s refusal to turn over user search records in a lawsuit designed to breath new life into COPA – the Child Online Protection Act – which was struck down as unconstitutional two years ago by the Supreme Court. AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo have all already provided similar search records to the DOJ.
Under a lawsuit to which neither Google, nor MSN, AOL or Yahoo, are a party, in the government’s effort to revive COPA, the DOJ served subpoenas on Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL, demanding of each of them two sets of data: 1) a random sampling of URLs, and 2) a week’s worth of search queries.
Those subpoenas, it turns out, were served last summer, but the story has only broken this week. This is because while MSN, Yahoo and AOL all complied with the Feds’ requests, Google has steadfastly refused. It all came to a head this week when the government filed an action in Federal court against Google, demanding that Google turn over the data.
Said Google General Counsel, Nicole Wong, “Google is not a party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches. We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously.”
The bottom line is that the Federal government is demanding that Google give them information about searches which were looking for child pornography.
Does Google know who is conducting searches? When you do a search for “milk and apple pie”, does Google know that it’s you? Odds are good that they do, particularly if you use any of Google’s services (Gmail, Google News, or any Google service which requires you to log in).
That means that when the Feds get that file, and see that “milk and apple pie” search, they can go to Google and demand to know who did that search. And Google will know.
Ok, so the Feds may not care that you searched for “milk and apple pie”, but what if you have an infant and want to find a good photographer to take one of those ubiquitous baby pictures where the baby isn’t wearing anything but an artfully posed foot or draped blanket? And what if you searched on “naked baby pictures”? And what if that was in the file turned over the Feds for their current child porn search witch-hunt?
Would you care then? Would you be worried?
I sure would.
So kudos to Google for resisting the motion. As for AOL, MSN and Yahoo, who all gave up their search users’ information without a peep, well, how do you feel about that?
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